Author Archives: John Andrew "Andy'' Miller

John Andrew "Andy'' Miller

About John Andrew "Andy'' Miller

Andy Miller (@gahealthnews) is the editor and publisher of the nonprofit Georgia Health News. The former health care reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a member of AHCJ's board of directors and leads the association's Atlanta chapter.

Member close-up: Lisa Chedekel

While on The Hartford (Conn.) Courant’s investigative team, Lisa Chedekel gravitated toward health as a beat.

“For me, in-depth stories about health had a more universal and compelling appeal than other beats I’d covered,’’ says Chedekel, who was among a team of Courant reporters that won a Pulitzer for breaking news reporting in 1999.

“Stories on health offer both hard data and real people – the two things that, to me, make the best stories.”

She co-authored a series on mental health in the military that won a Polk Award and the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, and was a 2007 Pulitzer finalist.

Now Chedekel is senior writer and co-founder of the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT), a nonprofit news organization.

Here’s a Q&A with Chedekel: Continue reading

Brawley speaks to Atlanta chapter of AHCJ

PHOTO BY LEN BRUZZESE, AHCJ Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, answers questions at Health Journalism 2012 earlier this year.

The Atlanta chapter of AHCJ met on Sept. 25 to hear Otis Brawley, M.D., speak on various health care topics.

WebMD’s Dan DeNoon introduced Brawley, an American Cancer Society executive and physician who earlier in the year addressed AHCJ’s annual conference in Atlanta.

Brawley spoke about cancer treatment, waste in medical spending – including in prescription drugs – and the health reform law in an hourlong talk to 15 to 20 chapter members.

He then fielded several questions from attendees, and stuck around for an informal chat with members afterward.

As always, Brawley was a dynamic speaker, stirring chapter members with compelling facts and insights about the health care system.

AHCJ’s Atlanta chapter will next meet on Dec. 3, when journalists will hear from the CDC’s John Jernigan, M.D., M.S. As the clinical team leader on the Multistate Meningitis Outbreak and director of the CDC’s Office of Health Associated Infections Prevention Research and Evaluation, he will talk about the agency’s response to the recent fungal meningitis outbreak.

Member close-up: Patricia Anstett

Pat Anstett began her journalism career when she took a job in the women’s department of Chicago Today, a daily tabloid.

That was 43 years ago.

The last half of her career has been spent as a health and medical journalist at the Detroit Free Press.

She’s retiring at age 65.

Anstett talks of her most memorable story, what she enjoyed about her job, and gives advice to health journalists in this Q&A.

YEARS COVERING HEALTH:

22

Patricia Anstett

Patricia Anstett

HOW THE BEAT CHANGED OVER YOUR CAREER:

Completely.

Medical writing was a turn I took at age 42, after I had the first two of my three children. I found that indeed I was capable of learning new, even complicated things. I loved medicine, everything about it.

RECENT STORIES INCLUDED:

  • Pediatric sedation controversies
  • Health exchange developments in Michigan
  • An ADHD day camp for boys, story and web chat

FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB:

My beat taught me so much about our nation’s health, as well as my health and the health insurance industry, which gave me an eye to one of the most powerful stories in America at a critical time.

LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB:

The blurring of lines between editorial and advertising, as newspapers get desperate for every print ad and Web dollar. We need to be honest as an industry to point out this problem and help provide guidance on how some members handle these issues.

STORY YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF:

In the early 1990s, I got a tip from an insider at the University of Michigan that Dr. Joseph Oesterling, chief urologist, had scammed the university on expenses and pocketed money from prostate cancer foundations he created. He used the money to build himself a mighty fine mansion. Through FOIA, I and reporter Maryanne George, who was a cub reporter I edited while we both were at the Michigan State News, got reams of information about his expense records showing he double- and triple-billed the university for expenses drug and medical device companies gave him. He resigned in disgrace but only served a brief stint of community service.

We ran a big story including a photo of the house that my newspaper got by hiring a helicopter (with our lawyer’s OK) and shooting it from above. (The house was on a private road with a chain fence that said no trespassing). Turns out the picture we ran was of the back of the house, but that entrance looked so posh it was taken as the front entrance. I used the photo in speeches and the back entrance comment always got good laughs.

The story opened my eyes to the poor oversight of medical professionals by most states. For the rest of my career, I wrote about disciplinary issues and lack of oversight of the professions. Oversight of medical professionals is cursory at best today and remains an important story for journalists to cover.

PAST JOURNALISM JOBS:

Chicago Today, reporter; Chicago Sun-Times, reporter; Congressional Quarterly, reporter; National Observer, summer copy editor and freelance writer; Features & News Inc., a Chicago-based news service run by Colleen and Bob Dishon; Detroit News, rewrite, night city editor, day slot, projects team editor. Detroit Free Press: 30 years of employment, the first 8 spent as an editor in features and metro.

YOUR ADVICE FOR YOUNG HEALTH JOURNALISTS:

I always told myself to spend each year with a couple new mini-beats. Then learn it from the ground up. Go after all the stories and build your base of expertise. I picked a wide range of new beats to learn within my beat. One year it was health insurance; another, the brain/neurology. Others included spinal cord injury; HIV/AIDS; community health; menopause; genetics.

RETIREMENT PLANS:

I got my passport this week, which is the official document for my new Entirely Enjoying It Too Much retirement club.

I have worked 50 years except for three maternity leaves. I am going to Costa Rica with my daughters in late November; plan to take a master gardening class; and play more tennis.

My general plan is to be healthier and happier.

IF YOU WEREN’T A JOURNALIST YOU’D HAVE BEEN:

I have always wanted to be a journalist so now I will find out whatever other skills and interests I have.

I promise you won’t see me on “Dancing with the Stars.”

WHAT YOU’RE READING:

“Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House.” This is an encyclopedic but fascinating account of housekeeping that my husband purchased for himself (I won’t go there…) about everything about the home and everything I haven’t done. I hope it has a chapter on cobwebs.

ONE THING YOUR COLLEAGUES DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU:

Beyond that I have cobwebs in my house?

ONE THING YOU’D HAVE AHCJ MEMBERS KNOW?

I love the list-serve discussions. We have some great people in the organization.

Related

10 Health Journalism Tips from Veteran Health Writer Pat Anstett

Member close-up: Wisconsin State Journal’s David Wahlberg

From hospitals to medical research to consumer trends, David Wahlberg covers the waterfront when it comes to health and health care.

Wahlberg (@davidkwahlberg) has covered these topics for about 20 years, and has worked at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison since 2005.

As a Kaiser Media Fellow in Health in 2009-10, Wahlberg wrote an 11-part series, “Out of reach: The rural health care gap,” that won a Sigma Chi Delta award from the Society of Professional Journalists. His five-part series in 2007, “Medical Misconnections: Patient-safety problems and solutions,” won a first-place award from the Association of Health Care Journalists. He has been a member of AHCJ for 10 years.

YEARS COVERING HEALTH:

Nearly 20

David Wahlberg

David Wahlberg

CURRENT BEAT:

Health/health care

RECENT STORIES INCLUDE:

A column, Health Sense, which I started after this year’s AHCJ conference.

A two-part series on nursing homes:

Madison Without Borders,” a special section on global health – sidebars:

“Inside Out,” a two-part series about a rare birth defect:

FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB:

The variety. I cover hospitals and clinics, medical research, health policy, public health, community health, consumer health, prevention programs, treatment trends, patient struggles and successes, disciplinary actions against providers and more. Continue reading

Member close-up: Seattle Times’ Michael Berens

This has been quite a year for Michael Berens.member-close-up

In April, Berens and Ken Armstrong of The Seattle Times were awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for their work exposing Washington’s financially motivated practice of routinely prescribing methadone, a deadly pain drug, for people in state-subsidized health care.

Berens and Armstrong donated the $10,000 Pulitzer Prize money to the newsroom to be earmarked for staff training. Part of the money was used to send four Times staff members to the annual conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors in Boston. The remainder of the money will be used for training throughout the year at the newspaper.

Berens’ website, watchdogreporter.com, includes links to some of his favorite websites as well as his handouts on things like a project checklist, developing a strategy to find the story and interview techniques.

Here is a Q & A with AHCJ member Berens:

Michael Berens

Michael Berens

YEARS COVERING HEALTH:

About 15 years, off and on

CURRENT BEAT:

Investigative, watchdog, enterprise projects

RECENT STORIES INCLUDE:

Methadone: Politics of Pain

Seniors for Sale, which revealed that thousands of vulnerable adults have been exploited by profiteers inside thousands of loosely licensed adult family homes, often with deadly results

Miracle Machines, exposing the deadly proliferation of bogus medical devices that slipped by FDA oversight; one device was FDA-sanctioned and sold by a federal fugitive

Culture of Resistance, which tracked the rise and spread of an antibiotic-resistant germ to hospitals with inadequate infection control standards

FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB:

Someone actually pays me to do this

LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB:

That any given day I might not have one

STORY YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF:

How do you pick a favorite child? However, my last story on methadone and pain struck a deep chord with readers. One man detailed how he had read the stories at work and immediately raced to the phone to warn his wife who was taking the pain medication – she had exhibited symptoms of a potential overdose that day. Connecting with readers, saving lives and reforming the system – these are the goals that propel me to the next story.

PREVIOUS JOURNALISM JOBS:

Chicago Tribune and The Columbus Dispatch

IF YOU WEREN’T A JOURNALIST YOU’D BE:

Homeless

IN YOUR FREE TIME YOU:

Rescue leather-bound books from used-book stores

WHAT YOU’RE READING:

The Presidents Club (Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy); Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo)

ONE THING YOUR COLLEAGUES DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU:

I keep a retired AP wire machine (circa 1980s) as a decoration in my home